No Joke: Jokr’s 15-Minute Grocery Delivery Out To Change Consumer Shopping Habits

It’s likely happened to everyone at least once. The forgotten-ingredient grocery emergency, the suddenly discovered empty box of Band-Aids or detergent that simply demands immediate attention and replenishment.

If going out and getting it yourself or waiting two to four hours for someone else to bring it to you is not viable, enter option three, Jokr. It’s a rapidly expanding, recently funded startup that is gaining share with an almost unthinkable mandate to complete deliveries in under 15 minutes for free and without any markup on the items in the basket.

With last week’s $170 million in fresh funding to aid its expansion, Jokr is bringing its service to new cities across the U.S. and Europe from its dual bases in New York and Berlin, with an offer that is not only crazy fast, but brings goods to the consumer’s doorstep without extra fees or minimum order requirements.

“What we’re excited about is the chance to change the concept of how people shop,” Jokr Co-Founder Zach Dennett told Karen Webster. “We’re seeing customer behavior is very sticky because once [they] stop planning ahead and [they] realize that [they] can just make the grocery choices [they] want the minute [they] want them, it’s kind of hard to go back to that planning.”

This is not Dennett’s first rodeo, so to speak, as he was one of the first eight employees at, and then went on to become vice president and general manager of food at, which acquired the firm.

The goal of his latest startup is to know customers better than traditional grocery stores and to meet needs faster.

How It Works

From the consumer perspective, Jokr is very straightforward. Log into the Jokr app if one happens to be in a New York City neighborhood that the brand currently serves, select items from a highly curated list of products, and within a quarter of an hour that delivery will show up on the back of a bike messenger.

On the back end of that magic is Jokr’s network of micro-fulfillment centers that carry a full range of grocery staples — consumer packaged goods (CPGs), fresh fruit and produce, meats, some health and beauty items, fresh baked breads from local bakeries and more.

The specifics, Dennett said, are very much determined by the small (2,500 square feet), Jokr-owned micro-fulfillment centers that stock the curated items consumers within a 15-minute delivery window like and will likely order. Unlike shopping in a regular grocery store, consumers aren’t choosing between tens of thousands of SKUs including five different types of mayonnaise and 15 varieties of pasta by different manufacturers. Instead, consumers are offered a choice of one or two and a set of grocery options curated to the needs of the specific customer set of the specific location.

It’s a lineup of offerings that is constantly being tested and perfected in comparison to the actual consumer shopping data Jokr sees, he said. Getting the optimal assortment isn’t possible since consumer tastes and preferences are constantly evolving. Jokr’s goal is to use data to constantly iterate, improve and “always make sure we get it right.”

“We have so many stores around the city so that [we] can continuously [run experiments] that will help us to understand what consumers actually need,” he said.

The Free Part

It would be easy to default to the traditional delivery aggregator model and assume that in exchange for free delivery, consumers pay more for what they buy. Not the case, Dennett said. Jokr sells grocery items at roughly the same price as consumers would find in any other store. The Jokr business model is to “save a penny” anyplace it can, and among its major generators of savings is offering exclusivity to the brands from which it buys.

He said Jokr isn’t just selling shelf space, but shelf space with no competitors as an available option. That makes it worth offering Jokr a better deal, resulting in savings that Jokr can pass on to customers.

Growing Into More Markets

If being able to order groceries and have them delivered in 15 minutes sounds pretty good, note that at present, Jokr is only available within New York City and selected neighborhoods in Manhattan in specific.

But growth is on the horizon, Dennett said, particularly after the firm’s major infusion of Series A funds. Growth will be largely driven by the data, particularly by the firm’s “cool tool” map, which looks at the whole world broken down into 200-square-meter neighborhoods ranked in terms of things like demographic data, food consumption habits, restaurants, online spending and geographic positioning, to name a few.

There is a long list of cities, including many of the local suspects like New York and Boston. Data drives the final decision, just as it does every other aspect of Jokr’s business.

All except one: the name.

The Joker, Dennett noted, is the most powerful card in the deck in some games of cards. Sometimes it fills in a gap in the deck; sometimes it’s a shortcut to an immediate win. It seemed a fitting name for a firm looking to deliver surprising shopping wins to their customers.